Before attorney Eric Conn ever appeared on the radar, I was temporarily assigned to the Social Security Administration’s Huntington hearings office. I had the opportunity to review Judge David Daughtery’s hearing proceedings and decision-making process as part of the Division of Disability Hearing Quality process.
I recall one such hearing in Prestonsburg: The claimant was asked her name and whether she believed herself to be disabled (she did). Daughtery affirmed the woman’s opinion. Proceedings were closed after five minutes, when normally they can last upward of an hour. The judge gave his decision writers no specifics on which to base an allowance, which he approved.
I reported this behavior to Baltimore, but no one wanted to pursue the matter, probably because of the inordinate difficulty of contesting the shield provided by the Administrative Procedures Act, which cloaked administrative law judges in a marvelous collegial immunity.
Before the APA, the hearings step of the appeals process was performed by hearings officers, employees of Social Security Administration. The APA has had, and continues to have, an extraordinarily chilling effect on any effort for effective review.
Had Daughtery been thwarted in his early beneficence, there would have been no opportunity for enticement by Conn’s golden apple.